WQED-FM's Artistic Director, Jim Cunningham hosts the WQED-FM Morning Show weekday mornings from 6-11am, and the nationally syndicated Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra broadcasts which air Sundays at 8pm.
Jim grew up in Warren, Pennsylvania. During the 9th grade he became involved with a radio club at school through which he began to work as an announcer for "The Hightime Show," a Saturday Morning broadcast on WNAE. Throughout high school, Jim was a regular on WNAE and WRRN-FM.
He continued to work in radio while at Thiel College, serving as the general manager of the college radio station, WTGP-FM. During college and after graduation with degrees in English and Business Administration, Jim worked full-time for WGRP-FM & AM as an announcer, producer and account executive. Having worked as an intern for WQED-FM Pittsburgh while a student, Jim returned to the station to work part-time and a few months later was hired as a full time announcer. Following graduation from Thiel Jim earned a Management Certificate from the University of Wisconsin Graduate School of Business with sponsorship from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Jim served as Station Manager of WQED-FM for fifteen years. As manager Jim lead the team that established WQEJ Johnstown, began 24 hour classical broadcasts, expanded live broadcasts in annual series from Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne University, Chautauqua New York, Heinz Hall and Heinz Chapel, initiated new programs including Symphony Weekend with Mariss Jansons, national distribution of concerts from the River City Brass Band and numerous holiday specials distributed nationally.
Jim Cunningham served as the Classical Music Critic for Pittsburgh Magazine where he contributed a monthly column for 15 years. He has produced and hosted over thirty features for WQED-TV's nightly OnQ Magazine. He's a regular pledge host for Channel 13 and has twice produced feature programs with Andre Rieu in Rieu's hometown of Maastricht, the Netherlands. His On Q special followed the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony on their tour of Europe. In 2002 Jim became the host of the Robert Morris Speakers Series at Heinz Hall where he interviews and introduces ninety minute lectures. His guests have included Henry Kissinger, Walter Cronkite, Beverly Sills, Robert Redford, Colin Powell, Rudolf Giuliani, Dave Barry, Elie Wiesel, John Major, Bill Moyers, Mark Russell, Ken Burns, Benjamin Netanyahu, Benazir Bhutto, Cokie Roberts, Ken Burns, Amy Tan, James Carville, David McCullough, Mary Higgins Clark , Doris Kearns Goodwin, Salman Rushdie and Tom Brokaw.
Jim has traveled as a correspondent with the PSO on twenty world tours to Europe, Japan, South America, Australia and the Orient. Some of his most memorable radio broadcasts were sent live from Rome at the Vatican, the great Wall in Beijing, Moscow, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Sydney, Dublin, Edinburgh, Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, London's Proms, the Berlin Festival, Tanglewood in Lenox Massachusetts, Carnegie Hall in New York City and in Carnegie Pa, Chautauqua, Pittsburgh's Point State Park, and the Salzburg Music Festival in Austria where Jim produced the first international live digital broadcast. Jim broadcast the Pittsburgh Symphony's concert at the BBC Promenade Concerts in September 2011 at the Royal Albert Hall in London as co host live on BBC Radio 3 for an international audience. In September 2013 Jim interviewed Pittsburgh Symphony Music Director Manfred Honeck for the live international Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall at the Berlin Festival in Germany.
An enthusiastic teacher, Jim taught Music and Art for the Carnegie Institute adult education program and currently teaches Unlocking the Classics for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Pittsburgh and for the Academy of Life Long Learning at Carnegie Mellon University.
During his career at WQED-FM, Jim has enjoyed meeting and working with many of the most talented people in the current classical music world. He has interviewed great 20th century violinists Itzhak Perlman, Isaac Stern, Sarah Chang, Midori, Yehudi Menuhin, and Nathan Milstein as well as conductors Leonard Bernstein, Andre Previn, Daniel Barenboim, Lorin Maazel, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Christoph Eschenbach, Gerard Schwarz, Valery Gergiev, Michael Tilson Thomas, Mstislav Rostropovich, Leonard Slatkin and Mariss Jansons. Among the composers Jim has interviewed are Steve Reich, Virgil Thomson, Franz Strauss Jr. (the son of composer Richard Strauss), Milton Babbit, Morton Feldman, John Cage, Aaron Copland, George Crumb, Krystof Penderecki , John Adams and Witold Lutoslawsky.
When asked to choose a few favorites from his list of hundreds of interviews Jim names Ravi Shankar, Benny Goodman, Tiny Tim, Wynton Marsalis, Mercer Ellington, Gordon Parks, Graham Chapman of Monty Python, and Fred Rogers.
Jim has served as a narrator and host for numerous classical music events. He appeared four times for the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, interpreted all the roles in Stravinsky's Soldier's Tale at Music for Rodef Shalom, Copland's Lincoln Portrait for the Pittsburgh Symphony, Pittsburgh CAPA Orchestra and Westmoreland Symphony Orchestras, Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf for the Pittsburgh Philharmonic and the Edgewood Symphony and five appearances with the Pittsburgh Symphony narrating Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. Jim hosted the Pittsburgh Symphony Memorial Day concert which included a reading of Emma Lazarus poem “The New Colossus.”
Jim is the host and producer of the nationally distributed Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra broadcasts heard on over 150 Public radio Stations. Jim has hosted over 100 pre concert talks for Pittsburgh Symphony concerts in Pittsburgh at Heinz Hall in Midland Pa and at the Royal Albert Hall in London before a Promenade Concert. As the presenter for the Orchestra's Unlocking the Classics series he has spoken to music lovers at area libraries.
Jim's work has been recognized with awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania with numerous Golden Quills including two in 2013 for coverage of the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Air Award from March of Dimes, the Gabriel Award from US Catholic Broadcasters, the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh's Millie Award , the Board of Directors of Chatham Baroque and the Pittsburgh Symphony Paul J. Ross Award for Excellence in Education and Audience Engagement.
A life long music lover, Jim took piano lessons from harpsichord builder and organist Jerry Elmgren. He studied guitar with Stephen Wendell. Jim sang in his church choir at First Lutheran Church in Warren and in the Choir in junior and senior high school including recordings and performances in the rotunda of the Pa State Capitol in Harrisburg with William Brocklebank. He hosted and sang in the Choir concerts at Thiel College at the Passavant Center under Dr Marlowe Johnson and studied music history with Dr. Edward Kasouf, Dr Ellis French and Ivan Romenenko at Thiel.
As an active member of the community, Jim regularly appears as a guest speaker, narrator or host at various cultural events, including Pittsburgh Chamber Music pre-concert lectures. Jim is a frequent host at classical music events introducing concerts at the Mellon Arena, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins for Andre Rieu, Hartwood Acres, South Park and the Bach Beethoven and Brunch series for Pittsburgh, Citiparks at Mellon Park and he's hosted the Three Rivers Community Band Festival for ten years. Jim gave the commencement address for the class of 2013 at Thiel College. Recent lecture appearances include presentations for the Pittsburgh Opera Guild, the St Andrew’s Lecture at St Andrew’s Episcopal Church and a talk for the American Association of University Women in Pittsburgh. He also served on the boards of the City of Pittsburgh Arts Commission, Chatham Baroque, Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania and Eastern Public Radio. Currently he is a board member of the Friends of the Carnegie Library, the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony, the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society Executive Committee and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the Steinway Society and the Pittsburgh Concert Society.